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Ego Trick: In Search of the Self Paperback – March 1, 2011


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Paperback, March 1, 2011
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Granta Books (UK) (March 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1847081924
  • ISBN-13: 978-1847081926
  • Product Dimensions: 8.1 x 5.9 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,344,682 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

'Baggini is exceptional within this popular genre for his clarity of mind' - "Guardian" Baggini mashes up philosophy with psychology, Buddhism, neuroscience ... considers the role of memory, demolishes a theologian's (bad) arguments for the soul, and suggests that "multiple personalities" are like different "users" of a computer system ... We end with some entertaining reflections on medical immortality, "free will," and the "extended-mind thesis," which holds that your iPhone is part of you - "Guardian" Baggini's study of how identity is defined is lucid and backed by a wealth of anecdote - "Metro" Baggini works on a broad canvas, citing Hume and Locke alongside the reflections of sex-change patients and victims of dementia. While leaving the ego in pieces, he gives your mind a thorough workout - "Intelligent Life"

About the Author

Julian Baggini is the editor and co-founder of The Philosophers' Magazine. His books include Do You Think What You Think YouThink? (with Jeremy Stangroom), What's It All About? - Philosophy and the Meaning of Life, the bestselling The Pig That Wants to be Eaten, and Do They Think You're Stupid?, all published by Granta Books.

More About the Author

Julian Baggini is the editor and co-founder of The Philosophers' Magazine. His books include Do You Think What You Think YouThink? (with Jeremy Stangroom), What's It All About? - Philosophy and the Meaning of Life and The Pig That Wants to be Eaten, all published by Granta Books.

Customer Reviews

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This is a good thing of course!
Roger P.
The book is a really fun and interesting read, and Baggini has the 'popular philosophy' thing down very, very well.
Kevin Currie-Knight
If you also want to know, read this book despite the fact that you will be sorry.
Bill McLean

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Roger P. on March 22, 2011
Format: Paperback
This book is a 'must read' for anyone who has ever wondered who they really are!

Julian Baggini adds rigour and readability to what could easily be a dry and confusing subject. Having said that the first half of the book is devoted to what the self 'obviously' isn't and is perhaps overlong, but then things start to hot up.

The author makes a convincing case for his theory that '"I" is a verb dressed as a noun.' It is not a 'thing' but what brains and bodies 'do'.

So is self 'just an illusion'? No:

The self is really a 'bundle' of thoughts not a hard fixed 'pearl', but it is still 'real', just not what we generally assume it to be.

The self as 'no-thing' can't be destroyed by death but this doesn't mean it survives it! In as far as the self is real it will end in death! This is even less comforting than the often used non-dualist idea of 'how can something that was never born die?' But this isn't about comfort of course, neither is Stephen Batchelor's (Buddhist) idea that there is nothing (no-self) beyond the veil of appearances - all is impermanent and contingent. There is no 'transcendent' self.

Christine Korsgaard's theory of 'self-creation' is examined next: the sense in which the self is created from what is chosen and enacted. We are responsible because we are 'agents' and we 'are what we do'. This sounds very like existentialism to me. We are nothing beyond what we do and are condemned to freedom since we must do something.

This 'living without a soul' is explored further: according to Susan Blackmore bundle theory lends itself to determinism rather than free-will. This is quite convincingly explained.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Hande Z on March 11, 2011
Format: Paperback
What are we if not just the body we inhabit? That is the question Baggini explores in this fascinating book about the essence of our identity - what makes us, us. He examines the two broad schools of thought, the "Pearl" school in which the hypothesis seems to be that each of has has a clear separable self that is distinct from our bodies - ie, our "soul", and the "Bundle" school of thought that postulates that our thoughts are a bundle of consciousness, passion, thought, and emotion. He concludes that all that are merely activity and not material matter and so they (and we) die when our bodies die. Follow his arguments and the rational way he dismantles the arguments of those who believe that we have an invisible self that possibly survives our death. It is a balanced book in that Baggini interviews and presents comparative views from Buddhists, Christians and religious philosophers. This is Baggini's best book by far (so far).
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Avi Love on May 16, 2012
Format: Paperback
This is a very stimulating and enjoyable read by a philosopher who I always find to be well-written and thought provoking. It advances the philosophical understanding of the self and debunks a few arguments along the way, however there are some instances where I think it could have gone a lot farther.

Part one deals mostly with shredding once and for all the "pearl" view of the self. This view is the idea that somewhere there is a true core self of some kind. The view has taken the form of the idea of an underlying core personality as well as some sort of pure spirit that is attached to the body without being physically affected. It is a largely successful part with some weaknesses.

The first section of Part One deals with the idea that we are somehow separate from the body. To illustrate this, Julian uses stories of transgendered people who could not overcome the fact that their body did not correspond with their psychology. While this is an interesting idea, I think it makes a fairly weak argument. It leaves too many other possibilities open even if you include the theories presented in the rest of the book. It would be easy to say that one part of their brain or psychology was wrong for their body rather than their body being wrong for their psychology. This would effectively disconnect the body from the mind once again. I think this section would have been much better covered by a discussion on the clear and demonstrated impacts of biology on the mind, puberty for one. Fortunately this section is not the sum total of part one.

The second section of Part One deals with the self and the brain.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Guttersnipe Das on October 4, 2012
Format: Paperback
The Ego Trick is an engaging and approachable introduction to the trickiest of subjects and the blindest of blind spots: Who is this "I" person anyway?

As a Buddhist, I am familiar with how Buddhists challenge the idea of the self. I lazily assumed the Buddhist way was the only way to take it apart - how very wrong of me. Baggini carefully examines the Buddhist view, with the help of Stephen Batchelor, the beloved "atheist Buddhist" renegade, and he finds much that is useful - and much that is unnecessary.

The book is enlivened by discussions with transgendered persons, theologians, transhumanists, psychologists, prostitutes and neuroscientists. That he manages to include all these people in a way that seemed to me both a propos and respectful seemed to me a remarkable feat of both writing and sensitivity. (That said, I would be especially interested to hear the response of transgendered persons to this book.)

This book is so lively and readable that it would serve as good company even at the end of a very long day, as you drink a glass of red wine and look to revive your weary mind. Only the most crucial chapter, chapter 7, "The Ego Trick", will require a clear head, a bright morning, and a strong cup of coffee. Or maybe just a few re-readings. But that is no problem at all, not for this, the trickiest of investigations!

I remember being a young man, sitting in a Buddhist monastery, listening to discussions about the nature of the self. I felt like I sat there for years before I understood anything at all! Baggini is a wizard of clarity - though, unlike a wizard, he endeavors to show you each part of the trick.

It is delightful to find a work of popular philosophy that is so graceful, respectful and convincing. I can't imagine a clearer introduction to this subject, nor one as fun to read.
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